My Story Of Cleft Palate: Part 1

My Story Of Cleft Palate: Part 1

"Sally Sells Seashells By The Seashore"

(When it began and What it is)

I was born on January 5th, 1998 with something my parents were not expecting. It was soft cleft palate. Cleft is the term used to talk about a split and palate is the roof of your mouth. The difference in mine is that it was my soft palate which is the muscular part rather that the bony part. The soft plate is toward the back of your mouth and is connected to the thing that hangs in the back of your throat, which is your uvula. Also my uvula is barely noticeable because of the whole there and repairs. When people hear of this they often connect it to cleft lip which wasn’t the case for me. Mine was only cleft palate, but many people often have cleft lip and palate together. Though others may just have cleft lip.


The first repair of my cleft palate was in October of 1998, when I was only 9 months old. Then at 18 months old, in July of 1999 I had my second repair, which was my last.

(1st Issue)

The first issue was that when I’d drink anything it would come back up through my nose because of the difficulty swallowing. For example, when I was a baby my parents would feed me starch in my bottles because of another medical issue I have, and they’d always have a mess to clean up afterwards. Because feeding a baby with cleft palate is a lot more difficult than a baby without.

(2nd Issue)

As I got older and began talking, it was obvious I had a speech issue. My issue was with how my S’s and CH’s sounded more nasally. This led to me starting speech therapy at the age of 3. I wasn’t enrolled in school yet, but I was able to take these classes at the elementary school on base. I continued to take speech classes at each school I went to, which was around 3-4 schools. Many of the activities for speech included bringing home work sheets and practicing words that involved these sounds. I especially remember having to repeat phrases such as “Mama Makes Me Mash My M&Ms” and “Sally Sells Seashells By The Seashore.” In the fourth grade, I finally “graduated” as the teachers called it. They said I had improved so much that it was barely noticeable I ever had a problem and that it wasn’t really needed anymore.

(3rd Issue)

Even though I eventually graduated, I faced other problems between that time of speech. In the first grade, I faced one of my more difficult times, that I specifically remember from my cleft palate. Because it was still in the earlier years of learning techniques on how to sound better, I hadn’t improved much, and still sounded very nasally. One kid decided to use this against me and mocked me for it nearly every day. I remember one instance, when we were both standing at the sink and when I said soap he repeated in the way I sounded. These type of things continued to go on, and my parents got involved with the school and I ended up going to the guidance counselor.

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To High School Seniors In Their Last Semester

Senior year moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Dammit, you made it. The final semester of your senior year. You’re at the top of the food chain of high school, and it feels so good. You’re probably praying this last semester flies by, that you get out of town as soon as possible.

At this point, you’re calling teachers by their first names, the entire staff knows you by name, and you’re walking around school standing tall, owning those hallways. You’re convinced you’re ready to leave and move on to the next chapter in your life.

You’ve already experienced your last football game, standing in the cold in the front row of the student section all season long, decked out in your school colors and cheering loud and proud. That is, until they lost, and you realized you will never have that experience again. Never again.

SEE ALSO: What I Wish I Knew As A Second-Semester High School Senior

You already had your last winter break. Preparing and celebrating the holidays with your family, ice skating and sledding with your best friends. Those quiet nights alone in your room watching Netflix, taking for granted your loved ones just a few rooms away. Never again.

If you’re an athlete, you may have already played in your last game or ran your last race. The crowd cheering, proudly wearing your school’s name across your chest, giving it your all. For some, it may be the end of your athletic career. Before you knew it, you were standing in an empty gym, staring up at the banners and thinking about the mark you left on your school, wondering where on earth the time went. Never again.

I’m telling you right now, you’re going to miss it all. Everything you’ve ever known. Those early mornings when you debate going to first hour because you really need those McDonald’s hash browns. The late nights driving home from practice, stopping for ice cream of course, ready for a late night of homework. Getting food on a whim with your friends. Endless fights with your siblings. Your favorite chips in the pantry. A fridge full of food. Coming home to and getting tackled by your dog. Driving around your hometown, passing the same sights you’ve seen every day for as long as you can remember. Hugs from your mom after a long day. Laughs with your dad. And that best friend of yours? You’re going to miss them more than anything. I’m telling you right now, nothing will ever be the same. Never again.

SEE ALSO: I'm The Girl That Enjoyed High School

Before you start packing your bags, slow down, take a deep breath, and look around. You’ve got it pretty good here. The end of your senior year can be the time of your life; it’s truly amazing. So go to the winter dance, go to Prom, spend Senior Skip Day with your classmates, go to every sporting event you can, while you still can. College is pretty great, but it’s the little things you’re gonna miss the most. Don’t take it for granted because soon, you’ll be standing in a packed gym in your cap and gown, wondering where the heck the time went. You’ve got a long, beautiful life ahead of you, full of joy but also full of challenges. You’re going to meet so many wonderful people, people who will treat you right and people who won’t.

So, take it all in. Be excited for the future and look forward to it, but be mindful of the present. You’ve got this.
Cover Image Credit: Hartford Courant

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Yes, My Family Was Homeless, But You Didn’t Know That Because We Didn’t Match Your Stereotypes

Being homeless changed my life but it doesn't define me.


Looking at my family or my social media you wouldn't ever know my family was homeless, but we were, for almost half of year. We weren't on the side of the road begging for food or money. We were blessed enough to be able to stay with friends and family house hopping. I also would like to take a minute and say thank you to everyone who opened their home to my family and allowed us to stay with you, it means more than you will ever know and it left an impact that will last a lifetime.

My family wasn't homeless because my parents didn't have a job or anything like that. In fact, my dad had two and my mother had one as well. Unfortunately, my mother just got very sick and the medical bills began to pile up while she was out of work for a few weeks and it was hard to find somewhere else to stay that we could afford. We didn't look like the typical homeless person and we certainly didn't act like it. Many people didn't know until I told them years later.

This is not meant to be a story to make you feel sorry for me or to make you think my family had it rough. We might have had it rough but being together, the ability to get that close to my family is something I wouldn't trade for the world. Even if it meant sleeping on basement floors at times and not being able to do all the things I wanted to. It made me stronger, it made my family stronger, and it brought us closer.

But before you go on to judge someone for being homeless and assume they are too lazy to get a job or don't have one. Know that there are people who do have a job, multiple ones, but life and unforeseen circumstances can arise and your life can change forever. Luckily my family was able to find a place to stay and we have been there for three years, going on four. It's just that sometimes you cannot control your circumstances and no matter how much you think you are prepared, you aren't.

Being homeless changed my life but it doesn't define me and I certainly do not fit the stereotypical homeless person. There is always more than just what meets the eye when you see someone who is and they come in all forms.

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